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Ronan's report

Tuesday 8th July, 2008

That title is deliberately ambiguous; it means method of teaching and lesson content.

Over that past few weeks, either side of a trip to the tarpon rich waters off the Florida Keys where I failed to hook anything, I've been reviewing a couple of fishing DVDs. One is an old video re-mastered and released as DVD the other is completely new.

The older publication features Hugh Falkus. By all accounts Falkus was an interesting, tough, sometimes difficult guy. As an angling writer he contributed rather a lot - meaning he was a grumpy old bugger who wrote several influential books. The grumpy bit is an essential element, Falkus's personality meant he wanted to think for himself. Maybe it also meant he didn't listen when other people knew more?
The DVD is Falkus on Fly Casting - for Trout & Salmon published by Beckmann If you are interested in the modern history of Spey casting I recommend you get a copy. However, a couple of cautionary points - the casting is not good, for gods sake don't copy his casting style.
Falkus was a professional broadcaster and film maker so his ability in front of a camera, the quality of his voice and phrasing is an object lesson to anyone making a simple instructional DVD. Falkus is fluent and comfortable, he appears to perform off the cuff but he knows exactly what he wants to say - his conviction and passion for a form of casting which was unfashionable at the time he was filming is formidable, even inspirational. That said, his casting is lacklustre and what he actually teaches, his method of casting, would not be taught now. Or so I thought.

I won't give the title or author of the second DVD, also about Spey casting also a man casting and explaining. Exactly the same format Falkus used and the presenter calls on Falkus as his inspiration.
This one I would not recommend it's simply bad. The casting is indifferent and even then what the narrator tells his pupils to do and what he does are not the same. In my opinion some of what he says is necessary is not just unnecessary it actually creates problems. If this DVD was where I started learning to Spey cast: I would have no idea how to get a clean anchor; no idea where to place the anchor to suit a larger or smaller change of angle; no idea how to adapt my actions to suit a shorter or longer line. The shortcomings of this production don't stop there but they'll do.

Both these instructors are teaching a style. Their method of teaching is 'Copy me', which is fine if the model caster is good. I can list half a dozen casters I try to copy - a very effective way to learn. Just so we're clear, I don't believe it's possible to teach casting without influencing the student's style, as soon as you pick up a rod and cast you teach, the way you stand, hold the rod and all the rest. On the other hand it is possible to teach the principles which underlie all casting, all styles of casting.
If you don't know those principles you have no option, you can only teach by rote - 'copy me' - and you get both the DVDs on my desk. Falkus I can pardon. The modern author is another matter. Unlike Falkus he has a wealth of knowledge at his disposal in a long list of excellent books and DVDs on this subject - why on earth, how on earth, has he managed to avoid them? How can he say that 'They say you can't Spey cast with a single handed rod." Who they, who said that? One of the best DVDs on the subject takes that as its starting point.


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